The U.S. has some of the world’s most advanced medical technology. Our $3.5 trillion healthcare industry offers treatments that were unheard of just a few years ago. Yet our country has high levels of health inequity. More than 28 million Americans have little to no access to healthcare. And those who do pay absurd prices. In 2019, per capita health spending was $10,966 — nearly twice the average of all modernized countries. Medical debt affects 50% of Americans, and most of those people owe more than $1000.
And despite all that, we’re still sick. More than half of Americans are considered obese, and 34 million have been diagnosed with diabetes.
What explains this disconnect? How can we have such amazing healthcare that doesn’t keep us healthy?
Problem #1: Western Medicine treats the symptoms
While Western healthcare is often hailed as the paragon of modern medicine, it is also relatively new. Just a few centuries ago, Western doctors believed that ailments were caused by an imbalance of “humours.” Rather than exploring the root causes, they treated the symptoms, even using leeches to suck out “bad blood.”
Our scientific advancements have helped us better understand the genesis of our diseases. Unfortunately, we still treat the symptoms. It’s as though doctors still believe that a person’s illness is due to moral flaws or negative feelings. So, when someone is experiencing depression, psychiatrists are quick to prescribe antidepressants that may lead to weight gain, insomnia, poor libido, and even suicidal thoughts! Yet depression is a common symptom of vitamin deficiencies and autoimmune disorders. A holistic approach to medicine considers that.
Also, the causes of our illnesses are often structural. For example, black Americans are much likelier to develop cardiovascular disease — not because of their genetics, but because they’ve been marginalized for so long. “Food deserts” with little to no access to healthy food are mostly found in communities with predominantly minority populations. Black Americans are also disproportionately misdiagnosed, delaying proper care, and they’re also more susceptible to medical mistreatment.
Altogether, this means Western medicine focuses on symptoms rather than the root causes of our ailments. Unfortunately, just because the symptoms abate doesn’t mean we’re healthy.
Problem #2: Healthcare is a capitalized industry.
That’s not necessarily to say there’s a conspiracy to make Americans sick so they keep going to the doctor — although some pharmaceutical organizations may like that!
Rather, it’s that healthcare providers must run themselves as businesses. In a nation without universal health care, medical organizations must treat all their solutions as products and their patients as customers. This becomes an untenable position as they risk not being reimbursed by private insurers. Meanwhile, they feel the pressure to minimize their expenses to remain profitable.
Altogether, this means doctors spend, on average, less than 15 minutes with each patient. And as Western medicine is primarily focused on treating the symptoms, most Americans will visit their doctors when feeling ill (if at all) and walk away with short-term fixes rather than lasting solutions. It’s the equivalent of putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg.
Toxins Make Us Sick, But Pharmaceuticals Don’t Make Us Well
Pharmaceuticals have transformed our lives, allowing those with debilitating conditions to feel better. New cancer treatments have abated what used to be a death sentence. There’s no doubt that pharmaceuticals can achieve what doctors would have regarded as witchcraft just a few centuries ago!
But that innovative success has an alarming context: why was there such a need for cancer-killing pharmaceuticals? Why is cancer on the rise to begin with?
Cancer rates are highest in modernized countries — and that’s largely due to the artificial compounds and structures that modern societies encounter on a daily basis.
Our bodies are the result of millions of years of evolution. They excel at fighting off microbes and keeping our cells turning over, so we can heal and recover. However, they don’t know how to deal with synthetic chemicals that have only appeared in the last few generations. Depending on our genetic disposition, our body deals with those disruptive chemicals in different ways…and we can get sick. Our powerful detox systems are simply overwhelmed.
Today, 6 out of 10 U.S. adults have a chronic disease. Everything from depression to fibromyalgia can be exacerbated by toxins and our bodies’ misfired responses to them. And yet, it’s challenging to find a medical practitioner who can treat both the symptoms and the cause — especially once the damage is done. Sadly, the U.S.’s for-profit healthcare system — and Eastern methodologies are relegated to “Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”
How Can We Heal?
There has been a big push for health industry reform, and the Affordable Care Act has expanded access to medical care. However, there’s still a long way to go, and the core problem remains: we are surrounded by PFAS, phthalates, parabens, quaternary ammonium compounds, and other synthetic chemicals that contribute to reproductive damage, respiratory illness, and yes, cancer. By minimizing our exposure to these toxins, we can allow our bodies’ well-evolved detox system to work better. While that’s no substitute for holistic medical care, the fact remains that the U.S. healthcare system is broken. We cannot wait for legislators to catch up to our health needs.
We recommend that you find a holistic physician who is willing to dig into the root causes of your illness and implement complementary, non-Western practices such as acupuncture. Always do your research on pharmaceuticals and their potential side effects. Whenever possible, use natural cleaning methods and avoid food that comes in PFAS-soaked packaging. You can also help expand your community’s access to healthy food by championing grocery stores in food deserts and volunteering for food banks and community gardens. Together, we can help our bodies detox and heal as much as possible without battling the U.S. healthcare system.
This article is inspired by an interview with Aimee Carlson, host of the Toxin Terminator podcast and certified detox specialist.